Friday, April 8, 2016

Autism Awareness Month and Leadership?

This post will be a divergence from my normal ideas (though I am sure I can factor in Leadership and Sales Success). I want to share a bit of my story and how autism has impacted my life. This past week my son Mikey turned 11 years old. When I reflect on what transpired April 5th 2005, it still makes me shudder. At 8 am that morning I was on the Baltimore beltway driving my daughter to daycare on my way to the office and a big company meeting. My cellphone rang and it was my wife. She sounded very scared. At the time, my wife was 6 months pregnant. She told me her water had broke and the doctor wanted her to immediately go to the hospital. 48 hours later, they performed an emergency C section and my son was born. He weighed two pounds 1.5 ounces. We spent the next three months watching over him at St. Agnes hospital until he was healthy enough to come home. The next three years, proved to be very challenging and a real learning experience for my family. A few months before my son's third birthday we received the results on several tests that had been conducted to understand what was going on with my son. The top report indicated my son is Autistic. Or, he has a condition known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is called a spectrum because no two people have the same issues. They may have similar ones, but not the same.

WHAT'S IT LIKE?

I tell people, all the time, I love my son but I hate Autism. The simplest way to describe it, is imagine a small toddled with a limited vocabulary that is prone to frequent tantrums. Now increase the frequency of normal toddler issues by a factor of 100. That gives you a pretty good idea of a typical day caring for my son. Those of you with children on the Autism spectrum look at that "100" and are nodding your head in agreement. Those of you without an autistic child had the knee-jerk reaction "Oh come on Mike your exaggerating." It's okay, I am used to people without regular exposure to autism, telling me things like that. I don't take offense.

WHAT CAUSES AUTISM?

That is the billion dollar question. There seem to be a thousand different factors that can cause your child to be autistic, Big surprise, preemies have a higher incidence of autism. Boys have a higher incidence of autism. children with parents over the age of 30 have a higher incidence of autism. If you have a parent that was diagnosed as "hyper active" as a child. Guess, what, we checked off each one of those boxes and there are plenty more.

WHAT'S ALL THIS ABOUT VACCINATIONS?

I have many good friends that speak out about the dangers of vaccinations and there are MANY scientists and doctors that  think of my friends as superstitious, angry people looking to assess blame Here is my opinion on vaccinations. Both of my children are fully vaccinated. My daughter is not Autistic and my son is. In my mind, that does NOT equate to vaccinations creating a 50% likelihood of autism. Here is what I ask the medical and scientific community. Your are CERTAIN, that vaccinations in no way cause autism and you have thousands on research studies to show that back your belief. What would happen if you did research with the idea that certain vaccines in certain people could be a catalyst for autism? That is all I am asking, consider the possibility.

I don't want to eradicate vaccines. I wan't to assure that they do NO HARM.


OKAY MIKE TIME TO RELATE THIS TO BUSINESS

My son's autism has taught me a great many things that help in the business world.

Lesson number one: just because you don't understand someone doesn't mean what they have to say isn't important, When was the last time you really tried to better understand someone, particularly if their opinion is different than yours?

Lesson number two: "Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." That sales meeting you had today, the one with the man in the corner that looks like he is about to pass out asleep? Maybe he was up at 2 a.m. with his autistic son who could not go back to sleep until 6 a.m,  a dose of sympathy can be a great bonding opportunity in business transaction.

Lesson number three: Patience is not only a virtue, it is absolutely critical to leadership. If someone does it wrong the first time, how much responsibility are you taking to correct and help that person become better?

Lesson number four: You are much stronger than you think. The world is fond of throwing a great deal at us. Very rarely do these things kill us or do irreparable harm. Worry less and smile more. My wife and I have the mantra "if you don't laugh, you'll cry." Try this the next time something "bad" happens. It helps, a great deal.

MY CALL TO ACTION TODAY

Statistically speaking, each of you has someone in your family or circle of friends, with a child with autism, offer to help. Offer to watch that child for them for a few hours so they can go out on a date like a regular couple. Offer to run an errand for them so they can take a nap. Offer to drive their other children to an event so those children don't feel left out. Offer to meet them for a drink after work one day and let them vent about life. It is good to have someone listen to you.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this today. I am happy to discuss autism, as well as my regular topics of sales, leadership, public speaking and LinkedIn with each and everyone of you.

mike@mikeshelah.com
443-808-1670

4 comments:

  1. Thank you, Mike, for trusting us enough to lay it all out here. It was well worth reading, and your points are well worth remembering.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mike, My 11 year old granddaughter is on the Autism Spectrum to the extent of having a full time aid at school.I take Madelyn on Thursday after school on "field trips" to different places. Often, when she has a meltdown people don't understand why she acts as she does. As you well know there are certain ways to handle certain situations.
    Thank you for the excellent article in giving people a better understanding of the challenges presented to the parents and family members with children with Autism.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mike, My 11 year old granddaughter is on the Autism Spectrum to the extent of having a full time aid at school.I take Madelyn on Thursday after school on "field trips" to different places. Often, when she has a meltdown people don't understand why she acts as she does. As you well know there are certain ways to handle certain situations.
    Thank you for the excellent article in giving people a better understanding of the challenges presented to the parents and family members with children with Autism.

    ReplyDelete